Vitamin D-eficiency: Not Gettin’ Enough of that Sunshine Vitamin

I’m going through my AMA (American Medical Association) News and stumbled upon a bold headline: ONE-THIRD OF AMERICANS MAY NOT BE GETTING ENOUGH VITAMIN D. Blessings to me, I am one speck amongst 75,000 Americans who are deficient in Vitamin D, aka the “sunshine vitamin.” I am not at all comforted when I read the section of risk factors. According to Dr. Marian Evatt, neurologist at Emory University, “The known risk factors for having low vitamin D levels include getting older, being overweight and having chronic conditions. We’re an aging, increasing-girth demographic.” Gee, none of those actually fit me; for all I know, I’m the major opposite. Just to kick me when I’m low already, “Deficiency was lower in people who were younger, male or non-Hispanic white, and in pregnant or lactating women.”

Here are my sources:

http://yourlife.usatoday.com/fitness-food/diet-nutrition/story/2011/03/One-third-of-Americans-are-lacking-vitamin-D/45559050/1

http://www.webmd.com/news/20110330/most-americans-get-enough-vitamin-d?src=RSS_PUBLIC

Here’s an endocrine physiology lesson, just as a way to believe my studying has paid off and make me feel like a half-way decent medical student. Vitamin D is essential for bone mineralization and there are two ways of activating it. First, you have the right diet, typically via fortified cereals, orange juice and milk, and to a lesser extent, eggs and salmon. Second, the most logical way, is through sunlight, where UV light converts 7-dehydrocholesterol to cholecalciferol. The product is subsequently altered in the liver, then the kidney, eventually activated as 1-25 (OH)2-cholecalciferol. I’ll just call it ‘activated Vitamin D.’ It works along three organ systems (small intestines, kidneys, and bone), all to increase calcium and phosphate in the blood plasma. For instance, at the small intestines, calcium absorption is increased via calbindin D28K (get it? bind cal-cium?). Most importantly, osteoclasts are first stimulated to break ‘old’ bone and release calcium and phosphate ions into the blood stream. These are the ionic units required to build ‘new’ bone through the action of osteoblasts. My point after that long-winded and technical discussion? If you are missing vitamin D, you cannot make the activated vitamin D necessary for calcium absorption and circulation. The result? Hypocalcemia (hyper-reflexia, spontaneous muscle twitching and muscle cramps, tingling and numbness) and of course, bone fractures and osteoporosis.

I’ll have to live up to the Holy Sun God and activate the Vitamin D laying dormant in my dermis. I can’t keep taking these pesky mega-doses of Vitamin D packed into little green pills.

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